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The Poet, The Fever Hospital

The Poet, The Fever Hospital

Bernie Miller
b.1948 - 2017

The Poet, The Fever Hospital
  • Galvanized steel, bronze, granite, and marble
  • 1992
  • 3.6 m x 2.4 m x 4.5 m
  • 55 John Street, Metro Hall Plaza, Toronto

About the artwork

Standing between Toronto’s Old Metro Hall building and Roy Thomson Hall, in the centre of David Pecaut Square is Bernie Miller’s impressive sculpture, The Poet, The Fever Hospital. Obscured by a large granite wall, four bronze cubes evoking television monitors are stacked nearly five metres high to form a fountain. Water flows from them down into a marble basin and into a reflecting pool below. Demanding to be viewed from all angles, the sculpture employs a variety of geometric forms and construction materials to create dynamic movement and visual interest.

Miller’s piece acts as a dual memorial, taking local history into account. The poet in question is Isabella Valancy Crawford, who stayed for a brief time in a house eventually demolished to build Metro Hall. The fever hospital refers to York Hospital, active from 1829-1856, which was also located nearby.

About the artist

Born in Toronto, Bernie Miller studied at the Ontario College of Art and became active in the city, both as an artist and an animator of art spaces. He served on the board of the artist-run centre, YYZ, for over 17 years and upon moving to Winnipeg in 2003, played a crucial role in developing the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art’s space, adjacent to the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

According to Miller’s wife, his works did not bear hidden meanings and he wished for them to express themselves directly. As he was fascinated with fairground architecture and Ferris wheels, Miller often incorporated delight and playfulness into his utilitarian and machine-age structures.

Miller’s legacy is steeped in his public sculptures, found across Canada, which explore themes of monumentality, history, and identity relating to place. Driven by a strong feeling for community and social justice, he was always attentive to the history of the sites where he worked, including their social and labour background.

Fun facts

  • Take a walk along Toronto's Harbourfront and discover one of Bernie Miller's most interactive works, "Learn To Throw Your Voice!". While the piece exudes a feeling of transmission and industry, nothing actually happens until the viewer steps forward and speaks directly into the mouthpiece before them. Go ahead and let your voice be heard!

Engagement questions

  • What can this sculpture tell you about the sculptor? What do you see that makes you say that?